The following letter, which speaks for itself, was circulated in a large congregation:
Our church membership
Nonresident members 75
Balance left to do the work 1325
Elderly who have done their share 25
Balance left to do the work 1300
Sick and shut-ins 25
Balance left to do the work 1275
Members who do not give 350
Christmas and Easter members 300
Balance left to do the work 625
Members who are overworked 300
Balance left to do the work 325
Members with alibis 200
Balance left to do the work 125
Members too busy with other things 123
Balance left to do the work 2
Just you and me, friend, and you had better get busy, because its too much for me!
Clericalism an Impediment
Among the clergy, clericalism can impede body life. Clericalism is a conspiracy. It is a state of affairs in which the minister said, “You leave the spiritual ministry to me; thats my job.” And the congregation says, “Yes, thats absolutely right, and so we will.” Or the congregation may say to the minister, “We hired you to do the spiritual ministry. Get on with it.” and the minister says what he should never consent to say: “I accept that, and so I will!” For those who serve God as clergy and pastors, it is necessary to challenge that conspiracy and decline to be a party to itto insist on the principal of every-member ministry.
We should aim at the state of affairs reflected by a letterhead I once received. It stated first the name of the church, second, “ministers: the congregation,” and third, “assistant to the ministers”: the name of the pastor! That is how it should be in every church.
A survey of hundreds of pastors has allowed us to compile a preliminary list of measurable quality factors in the life of a congregation in ranking order. The twelve factors are:
1. Bible knowledge. Church members are increasing in their grasp of the teachings of the Bible. They can integrate this with a theological system that enables them to apply the Bibles teachings to their life situation.
2. Personal devotions. Members spend time daily in prayer, Bible reading, meditation, and other personal spiritual exercises.
3. Worship. Members regularly participate in the worship services scheduled by the church.
4. Witnessing. Members regularly attempt to share their faith in Jesus Christ with unbelievers.
5. Lay ministry. The lay people of the church are engaged in such ministries as teaching and discipling. In some cases this happens through consciously discovering, developing, and using their spiritual gifts.
6. Missions. The church actively supports missions, organizing and sustaining a strong program for recruiting, sending, and financing home and foreign missionaries.
7. Giving. Members give an appropriate portion of their income to the local church and/or to other Christian causes.
8. Fellowship. Members are growing in their personal relationships with each other through regular participation in church fellowship groups of one kind or another.
9. Distinctive life-style. Members generally manifest their faith in Christ by living a life-style clearly and noticeable distinct from that of non-Christians in the same community.
10. Attitude toward religion. Church members regard their involvement in the church primarily as a service to God rather than a means to fulfill personal needs.
11. Social service. Members are serving others outside the congregation. This includes direct personal involvement with the poor and needy, or in programs designed to help the needy.
12. Social justice. Either through the congregation as a whole or through specialized Christian agencies, members are striving to make changes in sociopolitical structures that will contribute to a more moral and just society.
Imagine that we are TV sportscasters standing on the sidelines of a football game to give the play-by-play.
Scene #1: The team nearest us is standing together, heads bowed in prayer, with the coach in the center. Suddenly they give a great cheer, and the coach trots out onto the field by himself. The players go sit on the bench. “Whats going on?” we ask as we stick a microphone in front of a 250 pound guard. “Whats the coach doing out there?”
“Oh, hes going to play today.”
“All by himself?”
“Sure, why not? Hes had a lot more experience and training than the rest of us. Weve got a lot of rookies on this team, and we might make mistakes. Anyway, they pay the coach well. Were all here to cheer and support himand look at the huge crowd thats come to watch him play!”
Bewildered, we watch as the opposing team kicks off. The coach catches the ball. He valiantly charges upfield, but is buried under eleven opposing tacklers. Hes carried off half-conscious.
You think thats ridiculous? But isnt it the picture many of us have of the church? The members expect the minister to do the preaching, praying, witnessing, and visiting because hes paid to do the Lords work and hes better trained. But listen to Gods Game Plan. According to Ephesians 4:11, 12, Christ has given the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers “to prepare Gods people for works of service.” God gives leaders to the church, not to do all the work, but to help all of Gods people to do it! Lay people are not there simply to pay pastors and evangelists to do the Lords work. Rather, pastors, evangelists, and teachers are to equip the so-called lay people to be ministers!
Your pastor is meant to be a kind of playing coach. His main function is to help you as a Christian discover your spiritual gifts, develop them, and use them to build up the Body of Christ.
Now look at Scene #2:
The team realizes theyve all got to play, so theyre on the field in a huddle. They huddle and huddle and huddle. The referee calls a penalty for delaying the game and moves the ball back five yards. Still the team huddles, huddles, and huddles. The referee calls penalty after penalty, until finally the ball is moved all the way back to their own goal line.
“Hey coach!” shouts the quarterback to the sidelines. “This is the greatest huddle Ive ever been in. What a group of guys! We have the best fellowship and some of these guys are amazing students of the play book. Some have memorized over a hundred plays and can analyze them precisely. We learn so much in this huddle!”
“But why dont you get up on the line and play?”
“Why should we? What we want are bigger and better huddles! Besides, we might get hurt. No one ever got hurt in a huddle!” Your church and mine are in big trouble if they become a “holy huddle” a band of saints gathered Sunday after Sunday, singing, praising, enjoying each otherbut never setting out on the line to apply what they learn. The church is supposed to be Christs bodyhis hands, his feet, his voiceby which he carries out his plans in the world. God intends that “through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known” (Eph. 3:10).
The church is to be Gods light in a dark, corrupt society. The Christian life was never meant to be lived only in church for a couple of hours on Sunday. Its meant to be lived in the public arenaon the firing line at school, the office, and in the neighborhood, seven days a week. Of course, we need worship and training and fellowship with other Christiansa football team needs the huddle. But its what happens after the huddle that the game is all about.
Heres scene #3: the team breaks out of the huddle. But instead of lining up against the opposing squad, they break into groups of two or three, arguing with each other. Soon they start shoving, and two of them actually get into a fight.
“Whats wrong now?” we ask as one of them walks off the field in disgust.
“That bunch of malcontents cant agree on anything,” he says. “Those two over there are arguing over the color of the uniforms. A couple of others are quarreling over the right way to kneel in the huddle. Those two guys are arguing because one believes in what he calls personal football, and the other believes in social football. They cant agree whether the individual or the team is more important. Some of the white players say the blacks should go play on their own field, and some of the black guys dont like the band music. A couple are fighting over whether women should be allowed to play. And Im quitting because I can pass a lot better than that other guy, and they wont let me be the quarterback.”
The Game Plan says that Christ “is our peace. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two [Jew and Gentile], thus making peace to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility” (Eph. 2:14-16). Christians talk a lot about the peace of Christ. Can the world see that peace in our church relationships'
Within the Body of Christ there is plenty of room for diversity of gifts, but underlying that diversity is unity. “Be completely humble and gentle,” writes Paul, “Be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all.” (Eph. 4:2-6). Isnt it time to show our oneness in truth and love to a watching world'
So the first half ends. The team drags off to the locker room defeated, demoralized, beaten. But when the second half begins, we see a different team. Suddenly theyre playing together with a new spirit. They huddle, slap each other on the back, and take the line. Theyre off the ball with split-second timing, there is no hesitation, they know where theyre going. Each player carries out his assignment, and soon they score a touchdown, then another, and another. When the game ends, theyve won! Afterwards in the locker room the players are exhausted, cut and bruised, but happy.
“What happened at halftime to change this team?” we ask, the coach.
“We were sitting here beaten,” he says, “and suddenly a kind of presence seemed to come over us. I started talking to the players, pointing out my mistakes, and theirs, and they started talking. Everyone was honest. Nobody blamed the others. We took a good look at ourselves. Then someone recalled that the Great Coach, the one who invented the game, also wrote the Master Game Plan. Wouldnt it make sense to see what he said?
“We remembered how he literally gave himself to get the game started and to teach that first team everything he knew. So we got out the original Game Plan and read about basics such as each player knowing his place and dedicating himself to it, about pulling together, being willing to sacrifice, knowing the aim of the game, and using the proper equipment he designed. Well, we were quiet. It felt as if the Great Coach was with us, as if somehow his Spirit got inside us. Suddenly, we were up! Motivated! Ready to go! We cant take the credit. It goes to Him!”
We have been operating on “the fallacy of the misplaced comma” in the fourth chapter of Ephesians! Most of the older versions and some newer ones translate Ephesians 4:11-12 in this sense: “And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the equipment of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ” Actually, there should be no comma between these first two phrases. Even a different preposition is used. In “for the equipment of the saints” it is pros, while in “for the work of the ministry” it is eisor, as it would be better to say, “unto the work of ministry.”
A more accurate translation, then, runs: “And these were his gifts: some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip Gods people for work in his service.” Or as Phillips correctly paraphrases, “His gifts were made that Christians might be properly equipped for their service.”
The error is a small one in grammar, but a great one in practical consequences. For it now appears that the clergys main task is not to do the work of the Church, but to equip Gods people to do this work. The clergyman still has a particular ministryevangelizing or shepherding or teaching. But this is a means to fulfill his main business: preparing Christians to serve.
In terms of evangelism, the old pattern will not do. It is not enough for the layman to pay the preacher to win souls, or even help him to do so. The pattern is that the minister helps the layman to evangelize. He conceives his main task as that of training the Christian mechanic how to witness in the garage; as showing the Christian student how to have a relevant testimony in the classroom; as inspiring the Christian housewife to be a godly influence in her neighborhood. As a coach, he learns the talents of each player and fits him in the best spot, so that the whole church becomes an effective witnessing team.”
- Leighton Ford, Good News is for Sharing, pp. 67ff
- The Strong Family, Bible Study Guide by C. Swindoll, p. 153
1. Equipping is the responsibility of the teacher.
2. Equipping occurs best when the teacher assumes the biblical role.
3. Equipping should impact both character and conduct.
4. Equipping should focus more intensely on the most committed.
5. Equipping requires knowledge, skill, and long-term commitment.
6. Equipping has as its ultimate goal independent equippers.